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Lawyers Make Opening Statements In Murder Trial Of Alleged Middleman

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Fred Shields and Mohammad Aziz being led into court. Fred Shields and Mohammad Aziz being led into court.
The scene of the Neal Sweeney murder in 2008. The scene of the Neal Sweeney murder in 2008.
Neal Sweeney was shot in his office, in September 2008. Neal Sweeney was shot in his office, in September 2008.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

Attorneys made their opening statements Tuesday afternoon in the murder trial of Fred Shields.

Shields is charged in the murder of TU Hall of Famer and Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney, in September 2008.

He is the second man to stand murder in the murder-for-hire case.

Terrico Bethel, the triggerman, was tried last month and sent to prison for life without parole.

8/24/2012 Related Story: Jury Finds Terrico Bethel Guilty In Neal Sweeney Murder-For-Hire Case

Prosecutors said, even though he didn't pull the trigger and was, in fact, in jail the day Sweeney was murdered, Fred Shields is just as guilty.

Shields' attorney said Shields was not involved in the murder-for-hire plot and that Shields is only being accused because other people in this case want to save their own skins and cut deals by throwing down as many people as they could.

Shields' attorney says this case is about Fred's dead brother Allen, that he's the one who knew Mohammad Aziz,and he was the middle man and money man.

However, prosecutors said Fred Shields was also involved, that he decided the price of $10,000, he got their cousin Alonzo Johnson to steal the getaway vehicle, and he recruited the shooter, Terrico Bethel, while they were in jail together in Osage County.

Prosecutors say the whole plan nearly failed when Fred Shields got arrested the day before the assassination, but that we was on the phone all day with his girlfriend, making sure she connected Bethel and Johnson so they could do the job.

9/17/2012 Related Story: Jury Selection Underway For Next Trial In Neal Sweeney Murder-For-Hire Case

Shields' attorney said he was desperate to get ahold of Bethel, not to carry out a murder, but because Bethel owed him money.

Several months after the murder, police said Fred Shields was facing federal drug charges and wanted to cut a deal. He gave them the name of a shooter in the Sweeney case, but he lied at first, then gave them Bethel's name and other details.

His attorney said Fred volunteered information and gave police their first big break, because he learned of these things, not because he was involved.

Prosecutors said the evidence will prove Fred Shields is guilty.

His attorney said the evidence can be interpreted in a completely different way, showing Shields is innocent.

Through it all, Neal Sweeney's family sat quietly in the back of the courtroom, their focus, not on the five men accused, but the one man who was murdered, a beloved friend, family man and community leader.

Testimony begins Wednesday.

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